NHS to track winter outbreaks of norovirus to manage services

The NHS will use the latest technology to track outbreaks of norovirus and other illnesses in England this winter to try to cope with surges in demand on services

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The NHS in England will use the latest technology to try to cope with surges in demand on services this winter.

A sickness surveillance system based on data gathered by Public Health England (PHE) will be used by the NHS to track outbreaks of norovirus and other illnesses around the country.

The findings will allow the NHS to anticipate rises in hospital admissions and produce a planned response, such as rescheduling planned surgery and freeing up beds for those most in need.

Impact on hospitals

The data was first gathered in 2012 to try to predict illnesses that could have affected the Olympic Games.

This year such information is being fed back into the system through regional winter operations teams and combined with weather forecasts to help manage pressures and anticipate surges.

NHS England medical director for acute care Keith Willett said: 'The impact major outbreaks of these illnesses can have on our hospitals cannot be under-estimated, leading to whole wards having to be closed, with the loss of beds just when we need them most.’

Vital time

Professor Willett said: 'We can look at the trends across all of the PHE health data sources and try to anticipate surges in demand.

'The breadth and variety of surveillance data from PHE gives us vital time to put escalation plans in place, to free up beds and reconfigure wards.

'We can plan how to best provide care to a higher number of patients with a specific illness, and to corral patients who are suffering the same illnesses.

'It also means we can better predict when things will return to normal and plan accordingly.'

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